PHILADELPHIA -- Major League Baseball allows a team to carry a 26th player for doubleheaders because 18 innings can be a lot on a pitching staff. The Phillies especially needed it Thursday after deploying seven relievers the night prior.
Then, instead of navigating the late innings of Thursday afternoon's first matchup against the Mets with calls to the bullpen, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called on his bench. His fourth outfielder, Roman Quinn, and backup shortstop, Scott Kingery, threw the game's final innings because of a disastrous fifth that all but sealed an eventual 24-4 Phillies loss before the game was even halfway complete.
Kingery's pitches traveled so slowly that they didn't register on the radar gun. Kapler defended the way he managed the game with a tone more vigorous than his usual postgame statements.
• Kingery delivers some slow-pitch offerings
"It's a strategy decision because we're trying to make the playoffs, we're trying to win the National League East, and the game was out of hand," Kapler said. "We now have a bullpen that we can use effectively in Game 2 of this doubleheader.
"Down the road we're going to look back on this and it's just going to be a time when we got our [butts] kicked, and we had position players on the mound. But in this game, we're better positioned as a result."
A 10-run fifth inning got the Phillies to that point. Eight of the runs were unearned. One was balked home. Mark Leiter, who replaced rookie starter Ranger Suarez with no outs in the fifth, had been recalled earlier in the day to eat innings but allowed seven runs -- all unearned -- before he could get three outs.
Leiter's 37-pitch inning followed four frustrating frames for Suarez, who in his second Major League start surrendered eight runs (four earned) on 11 hits while walking two and striking out two. A third-inning triple for Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki, who later scored, bounced off the glove of a diving Odubel Herrera. Maikel Franco committed two costly errors.
"Unfortunately, things didn't work out today," Suarez said through an interpreter. "When you come up here, you want to get the job done. It didn't happen today, but I'm going to keep working hard to make sure it happens next time."
While Suarez's stuff was not stellar, he didn't allow 24 runs. As the Phillies fight to stay in the hunt for their first division title since 2011, their defense has become a problem. They entered Thursday with 88 errors and then committed four more to tie St. Louis with the most in baseball. They decided to address other needs at the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- namely, hitting -- and that has paid off when new additions Wilson Ramos, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Bour have provided timely hits. But the defense has not improved.
"We didn't play good defense," Kapler said. "We put a little additional pressure on our pitchers to get additional outs. These are Major League hitters. They're going to eventually drive the baseball and that's what they did."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Two Franco errors led to three unearned Mets runs charged to Suarez. In the third, Franco booted a routine grounder that would have ended the Mets' half of the inning. Instead, it gave Todd Frazier a bases-loaded opportunity in which he drew a four-pitch walk to give the Mets the lead. An inning later, Franco tried to make a barehanded play on a slow dribbler but his throw sailed wide of Bour at first base, allowing Jose Reyes and Plawecki to score.
The defense didn't improve after Leiter replaced Suarez in the fifth. Jorge Alfaro threw a ball into the outfield. Rhys Hoskins dropped what would have been the third out in left field, only to see Jose Bautista hit a grand slam over his head later in the inning.
Before Thursday, neither Kingery nor Quinn had pitched in a professional game at any level.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hoskins, Franco, Alfaro and Nick Williams all hit solo home runs in the loss. Williams took advantage of a hanging curveball in the third inning to smash his 17th homer this season. It took one hop in the visitor's bullpen and bounced into Ashburn Alley. With a projected distance of 439 feet, according to Statcast™, it was Williams' farthest home run of the season and second farthest of his career.
HE SAID IT
"I think they were probably more entertained than they have been, frankly. I would bet that it is more entertaining to watch what we just saw than in the same kind of blowout game, one of our relievers that we see regularly." -- Kapler, on the notion that fans paid to see position players pitch three innings
ON THE MOVE
After the game, the Phillies recalled RHP Yacksel Rios from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. To make room on the 25-man roster, Suarez was optioned to Lehigh Valley.